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"The Ending Begins" -> (13 skipped) -> "The Ending Begins: Chapter 15" -> "The Ending Begins: Chapter 16"

The Ending Begins: Chapter 17  by OriginalSim
  The mud was helpful in staunching the few deeper wounds. I must have looked a God-awful mess, but I was alive. I know I smelled bad, but oh, well. I wasn't going to be on a subway or anything anytime soon.
  I started hauling stuff from the car onto dry land, and organizing it. I had planned on switching to the folding mountain bike sooner or later, anyway. Now was as good a time as any.
  I no sooner got everything set up and on the highway when a gang of four seedy looking characters were visible in the distance, running full tilt towards me. I took stock. I was pissed. The world sucked even more than it used to. I didn't feel like being chased or hurried along by having to run. I dug out the rifle and loaded it. When I though they were close enough to hear it, I shot at them.
  They got the message and headed back the way they came.
  Most of that leg of the trip was painful due to healing wounds and sore muscles. I decided to try my luck at a pharmacy - if I could find one - to see if I could score some muscle rub. I had found a grove of willow trees and got some relief from rubbing some stripped off bark into the sore spots. For the ancient Egyptians, this was their only aspirin and I was frankly surprised that it worked at all. But it really wasn't strong enough, and I didn't want to waste the time making a decoction to intensify the helpful properties. It would be much easier to get what I needed in any pharmacy.
  I barely made 25 miles a day. I was more out of shape than I realized. I had little trouble – this part of Ohio seemed like one huge ghost town. I did see several areas that were hit by fragments of the asteroid: either that or someone had been dropping bombs out there. At any rate, there were house-sized craters just east of Columbus. I was about a mile east of there, when I decided to wait until dark to approach the city proper. About 10pm I came upon a mostly ruined convenience store. No one was around, so I went in and scavenged. I found what I needed and more: while all the food was gone or rotten, the shelves with medical supplies hadn't been touched. I grabbed as much variety as I could.
  I hurried along the Interstate that night, sickened by the look of the partially lit city. I could see people aimlessly wandering in packs, fighting, killing and looting. Not that it didn't happen before the disaster. However, I somehow expected people to work together to rebuild, not destroy.
  As I reached the western edge of Columbus, I heard a large number of voices and yelling. I headed for the ditch in order to hide as headlights appeared in the eastbound lane. I could not believe my eyes. A team of probably 50 men were harnessed to a flatbed trailer, dragging it slowly forward. On the trailer were five men. One was seated on – for lack of a better term – a throne. Like a King. Three others were on the front edge, yelling at and whipping the harnessed men pulling the rig. The final man was standing silently next to “his Majesty”. Three more men were moving up and down the ranks of 'horses', cursing and beating them with whips and branches. Each carried two pistols and had a rifle slung over their backs.
  I caught snatches of the yelling and pieced together that this “King Alfred” couldn't wait to get to Pittsburgh to start a revolution of some kind and to build an empire with the remains of the steel industry. I silently wished him good luck with that, figuring his “revolution” was going to end with him on the wrong end of a very sharp steel spear. I guess I was getting the hang of this devolving society.
  The deeper I went into the heartland, the more heartbroken I became. Any people I caught sight of scampered away, their emaciated bodies telling of the hardships they now had to live with. Adapt or die. I saw more and more evidence of the asteroid, too. My guess is that it fragmented long before it hit, due to the almost shotgun look to the land: islands of untouched soil amidst shattered mounds of torn up landscape. One town I passed near enough to smell. No one could be alive in there. I briefly considered going in to see if there were any supplies. The smell kept me away. After all, I didn't want to vomit all my breakfast away.
  I don't remember much of the trip across Indiana and Illinois. It is all a blur of dead things rotting, packs of skeletonized people looking for a way to die, gouges in Mother Earth and fear. I passed exactly one “fort” that the guy in Wheeling had told me about. Well, it wasn't so much a fort, as the smoking husk of what probably had tried to be a fort. I kept pushing myself. As the days and weeks passed, my strength returned and I eventually managed to get thirty miles a day without breaking a sweat. I was heading towards the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri. My intention was to head downriver before winter hit. About 20 miles east of St. Louis, my map became useless for the while. Instead of the interstate continuing on, it ran smack into the face of a mountain that should not have been there. I had just met my first chunk of asteroid. I didn't expect it would politely move out of my way, either. It was the first time I had to “wing it”. It wouldn't be the last.
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  'The Ending Begins: Chapter 17' statistics: (click to read)
Date created: Jan. 31, 2008
Date published: Jan. 31, 2008
Comments: 1
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Word Count: 1082
Times Read: 443
Story Length: 20
Children Rank: 3.5/5.0 (6 votes)
Descendant Rank: 0.0/5.0 (93 votes)